Oct 21, 2022 - Politics

The fight to monitor the Harris County elections

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Harris County and Houston city leaders have requested federal monitors to be sent to the county in response to Texas agencies saying they will send a team to monitor the election.

Driving the news: The Texas Secretary of State's and the Texas Attorney General's offices will send inspectors, election security trainers and legal advisers to observe and help administer the Nov. 8 election in the state's largest metropolitan area.

Why it matters: Dispatching people to monitor local elections adds to the narrative that there's voter fraud in Harris County, despite the lack of evidence, Houston Public Media reports.

  • The state agencies' action is "unprecedented" and a conflict of interest, said James Slattery, senior staff attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, a nonprofit that advocates for voting rights.
  • In a letter submitted just days before the start of early voting, the Texas agencies cited claims of unexplained irregularities in vote tabulation and chain-of-custody procedures in the 2020 election as the reason for dispatching administrators.

What they're saying: "That is an obviously very dangerous development in the midterm election here in Texas," Slattery told HPM. "There is no obvious purpose to this letter other than a preemptive strike by state officials to discredit publicly the results of the 2022 election here in Texas, even before a single person has gone to the polls."

  • "This 'audit' started with former President Donald Trump calling on Gov. Abbott to audit the 2020 election, and now it has led to the state sending a 'task force' and 'inspectors' to oversee our elections," said Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee in a statement. "We're going to grant them the access the law requires, but we know state leaders in Austin cannot be trusted to be an honest broker in our elections."

State of play: Harris County has turned Democratic in recent elections, while the state has remained Republican.

  • But this election could turn the tables and Republicans could win the seats needed to control the Harris County Commissioners Court.

What's next: Early voting in Harris County begins Monday at 99 polling places.


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